Soundbooth Die Zauberflöte

Props: evolution of the magic flute

19 December 2023

Stage director Simon McBurney’s Die Zauberflöte premiered at Dutch National Opera in 2009, saw its first revival in 2015, was staged again in 2018, and will be back in December 2023. Does the performance look the same every time, you ask? Definitely not! ‘The props list is updated all the time, with new items being added and others being dropped. The most recent collection is always a surprise!’

Text: Lune Visser

Props manager Niko Groot grabs a fat binder. It looks a lot like a home furnishings catalogue: there are pictures of every single prop. ‘This is our only way of knowing what we have and what we can re-use.’

‘But it’s more complicated than that. Every time a production is performed – whether at our theatre or abroad – changes are made. Sometimes the magic flute is redesigned, another time we might need a different fish bowl. Since we’re not involved in the international performances, it’s up to us to find out what changes have been made once the props have been returned to us. That can lead to some head scratching on our part: did they lose a particular prop or did the assistant director decide to cut it out of the performance?’

‘Never a dull moment in opera ...’

catalogus props
The binder with props from Die Zauberflöte
catalogus props

This version of Die Zauberflöte was most recently performed at The Metropolitan Opera in New York. ‘They didn’t use our props there. Instead, they made their own copies. Since this resulted in all kinds of changes, we’ll now be reproducing the props they made in New York. Never a dull moment in opera, not for us and not for the audience either!


Sound effects

This production of Die Zauberflöte will feature an on-stage sound booth. A Foley artist will use different objects to create special sound effects. Need storm sounds? No problem: the scraping of vertical slats against the canvas of the wind machine in the making will create the perfect effect!